Many wood burning stoves can be found installed inside existing open fireplaces.
Wood stoves are a great alternative to using a traditional open fireplace in your home, as they are designed to burn wood much more efficiently and cleanly compared to open fireplaces.
I have two open fireplaces in my home, and I’ve been looking at whether a wood stove would be a suitable replacement to better heat my home, but can you install a wood burning stove in an existing fireplace?
A wood burning stove can be installed in an existing fireplace, subject to there being a sufficient amount of space available in the fireplace to hold a stove, and there being a proper chimney.
There are also other considerations that need to taken into account when looking to have a wood stove installed in a fireplace.
Both my parents had wood burning stoves installed in their existing living room fireplaces, and I’ve explained below what they had to consider, and what processes they had to go through.
Installing A Wood Burning Stove In An Existing Fireplace
My parents used to burn wood in traditional open fireplaces before deciding have wood burning stoves installed (you can read their entire list of reasons for buying a wood stove here).
Here are pictures of the now installed wood burning stoves:
There are a number of things we had to consider before installing wood burning stoves in our existing fireplaces, which included:
- The size of wood stove required to heat the room.
- The size of the open fireplace and whether it would fit the required size of stove.
- The offset distance of the wood stove to the fireplace surround.
- Whether the existing hearth was suitable for the stove.
- A chimney that could accommodate a flue liner.
- How the stove would connect to the chimney.
Thankfully the existing fireplaces were already sufficiently sized to accommodate wood burning stoves big enough to the heat the rooms. If an existing fireplace is too small to hold a wood stove then the fireplace may need to be recessed and increased in size.
For heat output and air supply reasons, the space available around the wood stoves when installed also had to be considered. As wood burning stoves radiate substantial heat for many hours, even after the fire has subsided, there needs to be a large enough gap between the stoves and the back, sides and top of the open fireplace.
Leaving enough space around the stove helps to prevent the stove from overheating, and for the stove to warm the air up in the room rather than just the walls of the existing fireplace.
There also needed to be sufficient space behind one of the wood stoves to accommodate an airflow for the tertiary air vents, which aids in secondary combustion of gases inside the stove to produce more heat.
The existing fireplace hearths were assessed and confirmed to be sufficiently sized to accommodate a wood burning stove installation. (Read more about fireplace hearths here).
For more information on requirements for the size of fireplace openings, space around wood stoves, and hearth sizes:
In the UK, installation of a wood burning stove needs to comply with Part J of the Building Regulations.
In the US, wood stoves are governed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Installing A Wood Stove Pipe Into An Existing Chimney
Before installing wood burning stoves in our existing fireplaces, we had to consider how the chimney for the fireplace would be utilized.
My parent’s chimneys needed to be lined with stainless steel flue liners before the wood stoves could be installed. This was to help with the draw on the stoves, and to ensure a sealed passageway for waste smoke and gases from the fire to leave the houses.
The chimneys are made from conventional brick and the chimney liners were flexible so the process of getting the liners installed was reasonably straightforward. There would have been issues if there had been any combustible materials used in the chimney construction.
Unlike my own chimney which serves two open fireplaces and has bends in it, my parent’s existing chimneys go straight up through the house, making it easy to install a chimney liner.
We had to purchase the right length and diameter of stainless steel flue liners before getting a professional to drop the liners down the chimneys. The liners were then connected to the new caps located at the top of the chimneys.
Once the wood stoves were placed inside the existing fireplaces, the flue liners had to be connected the stoves. The chosen wood burning stoves could accommodate a stove pipe coming out of the top of the stove, and so it was a fairly simple connection to the chimney liner.
The throat of the chimneys also had to be capped with a sealing/register plate to ensure that there would be no other airflow through the chimneys apart from through the stoves (more information about register plates can be found here)
The chimneys were swept prior to installation of the wood burning stoves to ensure that they were clean before being sealed.
Does A Wood Burning Stove Need A Chimney?
A wood burning stove doesn’t require a chimney to be installed or operated, but will still need a way to exhaust the smoke and gases released by the fire in the form of a flue.
It can be less hassle to install a wood stove in an existing fireplace because there’s already a passageway to vent waste smoke and gases from your home.
Depending on the situation, a twin wall insulated flue can be installed internally within the house and up through the roof, or installed externally with the flue connected through the wall.
Can You Install A Wood Burning Stove In An Existing Fireplace?
With the right size of fireplace opening and the right chimney, wood burning stoves can be installed inside existing fireplaces.
The main considerations need to be in line with your local building regulations, but will typically include leaving enough space around the back, sides and top of a fireplace to accommodate for air flow and heat output, as well as having the right size hearth, and a chimney that allows for waste gases to be removed from your home safely.